What Mid-level Managers Must Do in Chaotic Economic Times

April 20, 2016
Step up. Demonstrate your passion and ideas, and you CAN help upper management address the need for business flexibility and speed.

We live in a time when the economy is rather stagnant with little growth and limited opportunities. What can mid-level managers do to have a lasting positive value? You may have asked yourself this question, so what is the answer?

For one thing, if you think the “keep my head down do my job well” is a best approach; at least the “do my job well” part is. The “head down” part, not so much!

In my research I’ve found that while upper management has the responsibility to make strategic decisions, they may need help defining the business model of the current and future state. With the speed of change we are seeing, the markets are changing and will continue to do so—rapidly. Upper management may be tuned in to the speed of yesterday.

When we talk about the Business Model we have to understand the company’s model and to challenge it with respect to its response to rapid changes. If you are a continuous improvement change agent, Production manager or VP of operations, you have a large stake in the future of the company. Your insight on the business model best practices to address the current and future is important.

This is what is so refreshing in the new millennials that we are hiring. They come in looking at the business model from the “tops down”; not the “head down” approach!

[Millennials] don’t want to sit in a cubicle and take orders, but to create—and so should you as a mid-level manager."

They want to make an immediate difference and are aware of Apple, Google and Amazon who have come up with innovative business models and value delivery, and are continually looking to address the future trends. They don’t want to sit in a cubicle and take orders, but to create—and so should you as a mid-level manager.

Guess what: If you have been out of school for a few years, you also can be bold and get involved in broader jobs than your current job description! Just step forward and let a leader know you are interested and have some ideas. You may have to volunteer some ideas to prime the pump and let them know you are a serious thinker. Continuous improvement is as important in management as well as on the factory floor! They need bright minds that can work on strategy teams.

A Business Model usually consists of four parts:

  • Target customers
  • The need
  • The Products or Services to fill that need (sometimes called “offerings”) and differentiates a company from the competition
  • The Delivery System including internal & external tasks, how resources are configured, marketing and capturing profits  

There is some good discussion on Wikipedia (

All of these parts continue to change and the past, current and future state must be understood and envisioned by the company in order to grow.

Mid-level managers can add great value, but may never be asked to help, so put your best foot forward and demonstrate your passion and ideas—and you CAN add value. The company execs then set goals and aspirations and assign appropriate resources to work these for the company benefit.

Of course, the continuous re-evaluation leads to a continual transformation of the business model and the business.

About the Author

Bill Baker | President/Owner

Bill has been a rocket performance engineer, manufacturing engineer, finance executive  and manufacturing manager at Texas Instruments, University of Texas at Dallas and Raytheon spanning 43 years.

Also he has served as a keynote speaker, workshop leader, consultant and author with expertise in Lean Enterprise, excellence criteria, benchmarking and knowledge management.

He is the co-author, with Ken Rolfes, of Lean for the Long Term (Productivity Press, 2015).

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